Steven C. Day's "The Last Chance Democracy Cafe"
August 5, 2005
|STEVEN C. DAY'S ARCHIVES|
Winston has written another letter: This time its an open letter to President Bush. So put on your seatbelts; this is going to be a rough ride!
The Last Chance Democracy Café
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To the Honorable George W. Bush
Dear President Bush:
I want to be up front here: I'm no friend of your administration. In fact, to the best of my memory, I've never said a single nice thing about you; and if by chance I have, but have somehow forgotten it (or more likely blocked it out of my memory), I hereby officially wash my mouth out with soap for having done so.
There, I've done it: I've made a full and honest disclosure: It's good for the soul, you know. You might try it sometime.
Although in your particular case, I have to admit that full and honest disclosure might well prove hazardous to your presidency's health.
* * *
But that's not why I'm writing this letter. I'm writing because I want to tell you a story.
It happened a few evenings ago; my youngest son and I were eating at an upscale bistro near his home to celebrate a promotion he received at work. Our waiter -- a nice young fellow -- was carrying an extra large serving tray full of plates high above his head with one hand, while clutching a basket of rolls in the other hand.
But this was no ordinary delivery: At least 20 plates were piled up on the tray, each overflowing with goodies like steaks, chops and sea food.
They formed stacks four deep.
And clearly the poor lad had badly misjudged the weight and stability of this gargantuan; a look of absolute panic was sandblasted onto his face as he edged ever so gingerly across the room, as the plates teetered ominously from side to side: Every eye in the place was fixed on him with an intensity that couldn't have been much greater if Angelina Jolie had walked into the place buck naked (though if anyone wants to set up an experiment to find out for sure, I'll be happy to participate).
You could, as they say, have heard a pin drop. But, of course, it wasn't a pin we were waiting to see dropped.
What stuck me most about this situation was the complete absence of any possible middle ground outcome: This wasn't going to end up as a small fuck up, with, say, one or two plates sliding off into the abyss, the rest unmolested. No, given the interlocking way the plates were piled up on top of each other, if the tray started to go, the tray was going to go -- and not one shrimp, stuffed crab or even solitary garnish was going to survive.
It was all or nothing.
And at that moment, President Bush, it occurred to me that you're in pretty much the same position right now.
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But as Charles Dickens said, I should really begin at the beginning. And for our purposes, the beginning involves your self-image.
And the central feature of that self-image isn't, as most people probably think, Christianity or even Republican politics -- it's toughness. Whatever anyone else may think of you, when you look in the mirror, you see a tough guy looking back.
That's something I think a lot of people have missed. All that business about bringing bin Laden back dead or alive, smoking him out and telling the Iraqi rebels to bring it on wasn't just political posturing, was it? That's really how you see yourself. And if to some folks this seems a little inconsistent with your having avoided service in Vietnam in your younger days, well, that's their problem, isn't it?
And one of the things about tough guys is that they don't spend a lot of time worrying about things like law, ethics and proper procedure. They get the job done; and they get it done by whatever means necessary.
Dirty Harry never let a bunch of sissy constitutional rights stop him from doing what needed to be done.
And I don't seem to ever recall John Wayne requesting an environmental impact statement before driving cattle across grasslands.
If a shell-shocked soldier needed a good slapping, George Patton didn't coddle him, mumble a bunch of psycho mumbo jumbo or send him home to his mommy. Hell no, he slapped the crap out of him.
And when somebody crossed Michael Corleone, there was no negotiating, no diplomacy and no second chances: They got whacked, end of story.
I mean, let's be honest, President Bush; there's a lot more Michael Corleone, than Jesus Christ, in your chosen style of governance.
Another thing about tough guys is that they like hanging out with their own kind.
So after your "election" as president, you purposefully surrounded yourself with other tough guys -- Cheney, Rove, Bolton, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and all the rest. And from that moment on, all you tough guys pretty much just talked to each other, didn't you?
Admit it: It was kind of enjoyable making fun of those others, people like Colin Powell -- the ones who insisted on talking about diplomacy, negotiations and all that other wimpy stuff.
Then along came Sept 11 and the War on Terrorism; and to you they were like gifts from God, weren't they? Suddenly toughness was in fashion. Here was your chance, your moment, your destiny. The ultimate tough guy turn on: Leading a great nation into war; bending the world before your will.
If anybody, or any country, got in your way, they got whacked.
And, at first, the whole nation was marching with you. You were untouchable.
What a rush that must have been!
But there was a dark side to all this, wasn't there?
You let all that glorious unaccountability go to your head. You got cocky.
Who could blame you? You were riding the wave and the whole world was yours.
It didn't matter what you did, what rules you broke, or even who you hurt in the process -- you always got away clean. No exceptions. If you wanted to challenge the patriotism of anyone with the audacity to question your wisdom, no problem. Or if it caught your fancy to shower Halliburton and other politically connected corporations with billions upon billion of dollars in chummy no bid contracts -- take it to the bank, literally. And when it proved convenient to lie about weapons of mass destruction and to otherwise mislead the nation into war -- hey, shit happens.
Torture prisoners? Hold people for years without charge at Guantánamo? Illegally transfer prisoners to other countries to be tortured? Doctor the results of scientific studies? Hide public documents based upon the flimsiest of excuses? Take revenge on governmental servants, even leaders in the military, who refuse to blindly adopt the Bush version of "truth?" Provide Congress with deliberately misleading economic and budgetary statistics and projections? "Out" a CIA agent?
Shit, why sweat the small stuff?
And it runs deep, doesn't it President Bush?
In fact, I'm willing to bet that the lawlessness within your administration that we know about now, the stuff that's already been uncovered, comes no closer to telling the whole story of your mendacity than the magma expelled from a volcano comes to disclosing the full contents of the earth's molten core.
You're one tough son of a bitch, President Bush. And for awhile there, you got one hell of a ride.
* * *
But sometimes even tough guys get unlucky. Sometimes you roll the dice and they end up landing in a pile of turds.
And sometimes consequences have consequences.
I know that sounds like double talk, but hang with me: Think of a drunk driver. Hell, think of yourself as a drunk driver back during your "irresponsible youth." Actually, think of two drunk drivers. One stumbles out of the bar to drive home, and along the way runs a red light; but he gets lucky and no other cars are around. So, he swerves on home, sleeps it off and goes on to become, well, maybe the President of the United States.
The second drunk driver does exactly the same thing as the first, except he's unlucky. When he runs the red light, a family happens to be passing though the intersection and he kills a five-year-old girl. He goes to prison for 10 years.
Same exact act. Radically different consequences in the harm done to others, bringing radically different consequences to the drivers themselves.
Face it, George; when you decided to invade Iraq, you hit that other car square on.
If you'd been lucky and peace, security and true democracy had blossomed from the seeds of all those flowers the Iraqis were supposed to throw at our troops, all the lies might have been forgiven, even forgotten.
But that isn't what happened.
Now, since it happens that your minions control Congress and to a significant degree the federal courts, and since today's major news outlets often seem to have more in common with Sergeant Schultz from the old Hogan's Heroes show -- "I see nothing. I know nothing" -- than with, say, Edward R. Murrow, you haven't suffered much in the way of personal consequences for this yet.
All of the metaphorical plates on that serving tray are still firmly in place.
But it's getting harder to hold them up there, isn't it?
And, frankly, President Bush, you are showing increasingly less grace in the effort.
And the pressure keeps building.
So you respond in the only way you know how. Maybe the only way possible, given where you now stand.
Stonewall, stonewall and then stonewall some more.
Don't give an inch, not even one lousy millimeter.
So those increasingly pesky congressional Democrats want the papers from Cheney's industry kissing energy task force?
What's that thing Nancy Reagan always used to say? Oh yeah; just say no!
And those same Democrats want Congress to investigate the alleged political misuse of intelligence in the run up to the war?
A quick phone call from Karl Rove to Pat Roberts will put an end to that shit.
And so on and so on and so on.
But the stonewalling keeps getting harder, doesn't it? And all those metaphorical plates keep getting heavier. For one thing, the opinion polls -- yeah, those damn things again -- seem to show that most Americans have come to the conclusion that you're -- let's see, how can I put this delicately -- well, that you're a lying sack of shit; and when that's combined with your colder than a December morning overall approval ratings, some of the Republican troops in Congress are starting to get just a tad nervous. Hell, the press is even beginning to stir a little.
Then there's the business of the criminal investigations.
This Patrick Fitzgerald guy has got to be driving you nuts. He's a Republican -- a political appointee to boot. Yet, somehow he hasn't gotten the memo. He doesn't understand that the rules just don't apply to you. That if you want to "out" a CIA operative in order to score some cheap political revenge, well then that's your right.
Maybe Fitzgerald's grand jury will indict Rove; maybe it won't. But he's sure making that tray full of plates heavier.
Then there's Coingate in Ohio, and Delaygate in Texas. At first glance, they seem unrelated, but you know better, don't you George? You run far too tight a ship for that. While the puppets may be different, the same puppeteers are pulling the strings. Take Ohio. I'm not suggesting Rove or you were somehow behind the apparent misappropriation of public funds, but the people accused of doing the stealing are your people. They were part of your campaign; they did your bidding. And to a degree at least, they know your secrets. To give just one example, they have a pretty good idea of just how far you went in making sure Ohio would stay in your column.
You see, President Bush, it's that interlocking thing, like those plates all piled up together on the serving tray. If one starts to fall, they all start to fall.
All it will take is one misstep; one bit of bad luck. Someone cutting a deal. Someone forgetting to scrub an incriminating e-mail.
And it all comes crashing down.
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By the way, in case you're interested, President Bush, that waiter -- you know, the one in the restaurant -- believe it or not, he made it all the way to the table without a mishap. Not a single plate went crashing to the floor.
Everyone in the place applauded him.
Obviously, there's no way I can know for certain whether you're going to be able to pull off the same trick; but the three plus years left in your term of office is an awfully long time and that load just keeps getting heavier. I may be wrong, but personally, I think that sometime fairly soon those plates are going to come tumbling down; and when they do, it'll make for one hell of a crash.
The kind of crash that not everyone walks away from.
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Read all the "The Last Chance Democracy Cafe" episodes in the archives.
When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 25 years. Contact Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2004, Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001